Extreme Sailing Series 2011 Istanbul Grand Prix Act 3 preview

Groupe Edmond de Rothschild crossing the finish line - Extreme Sailing Series Act 2
Extreme Sailing Series 2011 Grand Prix Act 3 is being hosted by the fabulous city of Istanbul, Turkey, and begins tomorrow 25th May.

For five days, the eleven competing crews will do battle on this unique race zone, that can best be described as complicated. Indeed it’s between the European side of the modern and the ancient city, on the Golden Horn (an estuary of the Bosphorus), that the latest rounds of nautical jousting will take place. Edmond de Rothschild, helmed by Pierre Pennec, is still leading the 2011 championship. Hot on their heels, the competition is sharpening its weapons. Indeed, in the general ranking, the four men are being closely tailed by two crews, whose increased power was evident in Qingdao back in mid-April. They are the New Zealand team skippered by Dean Barker and the Italians on Luna Rossa.

The destinations for the Extreme Sailing Series 2011 are certainly contrasting. A little more than a month after the Qingdao Grand Prix, this season’s eleven competing crews find themselves in Istanbul. It’s the first time that this city, steeped in history, has accommodated the 40 foot one-designs. The European Capital of Culture in 2010, Istanbul will go by the title of sporting capital in 2012. Built at the cusp of two continents – Europe and Asia – the city previously known as Byzantium and then Constantinople, will provide a sublime backdrop for the third confrontation of the season. Racing will take place just a stone’s throw from the symbolic monuments of the Ottoman city, such as the Blue Mosque, the Hagia Sophia basilica and the Topkapi palace.

The competition promises to be as magical as the setting. 'We’re very happy to be back on the Extreme Sailing Series circuit after a month of racing. In Istanbul, we’re expecting a really fierce battle. Not only has the performance of the fleet moved up a notch, as we witnessed in Qingdao during Act 2, but also because Istanbul’s race zone appears complicated and very specific', admitted the skipper of the catamaran fitted out by Baron Benjamin de Rothschild. Winners in China, the Italians on Luna Rossa will naturally be in the Gitana Team’s sights. The same goes for the Kiwi team, who put in a regular performance on the waters of Qingdao to snatch second. Finally, this Grand Prix marks the return of Terry Hutchinson at the helm of Artemis, the Swedish one-design which made life difficult for them in Oman during the inaugural event of the season.

'The Gitana Team is in great shape and still leads the 2011 championship after two events. In Oman, we noticed that our strength lay in the breezy 'Open Water' races of the first few days, but in Qingdao we performed well on the final day of the short ‘arena’ races, in a wind which was oscillating a great deal. It’s a real positive and above all it augurs well for us as it’s most likely in this configuration that the races for Act 3 will be run', explained Pierre Pennec.

With kick-off in 24 hours’ time, the weather forecast for the region is counting on relatively windy conditions for this Grand Prix. However, this information shouldn’t be taken as read as the effects of the site might well serve up an entirely different dish. 'The playing field selected for the races in Istanbul is an inland water, which is relatively small with hills close by. As a result the winds could be particularly fickle. We’re going to have to play the opportunist and even accept that we may have to concede a few places to ensure that overall we’re still at the top of the ranking.'

This Tuesday morning, the shore teams are ready to get down to work after receiving the containers in which the 40 foot catamarans are transported. Indeed, it’s worth noting that one of the specific features of these boats is that they can be completely dismantled. For this Turkish Grand Prix, the crews won’t have any training days prior to the competition itself. Instead, they’ll get straight into the thick of the action. The start of racing is scheduled tomorrow, Wednesday, early afternoon Istanbul time.

Ranking for the Extreme Sailing Series 2011 after two Grand Prix:
1. Edmond de Rothschild Group (FRA) – 20 points
2. Emirates Team New Zealand (NZ) – 18 points
3. Luna Rossa (ITA) – 18 points
4. Red Bull Extreme Sailing (AUT) – 17 points
5. Artemis Racing (SWE) – 16 points
6. Alinghi (SUI) – 13 points
7. The Wave, Muscat (OMA) – 10 points
8. Oman Air (OMA) – 7 points
9. Team Extreme (EUR) – 7 points
10. Niceforyou (ITA) – 4 points
11. Team GAC Pindar (GBR) – 2 points

The crew of Edmond de Rothschild Group:
Pierre Pennec – Helmsman, skipper
Christophe Espagnon – Mainsail trimmer, tactics
Thierry Fouchier – Headsail trimmer
Hervé Cunningham - Bowman

The Extreme Edmond de Rothschild Group supports the Joves Navegants foundation:
The family of Baron Benjamin de Rothschild has always had a passion for nautical activities, a commitment embodied today by the Gitana Team. As such the Edmond de Rothschild Foundation have quite naturally been sensitive to the mission of Joves Navegants and touched by the profound collective commitment to helping these young people in precarious situations.

Inspired by the methods of British Sailing associations, which help young people in difficulty, some enthusiastic sailors who have settled in Palma, Mallorca, decided to create Joves Navegants. Aware of the complicated situation for certain youngsters on the island in serious economic and family difficulties, they have chosen to share their passion. The foundation organises several types of trips out to sea on the yacht, Galaxie. These days out involve journeys of discovery, awareness campaigns for sustainable development, participation in races and training aids to enable certain youngsters to envisage sailing as a professional career.

The Edmond de Rothschild Foundation will be supporting Joves Navegants in the organisation of trips out to sea during the summer, enabling the necessary technical improvements to be made on the Galaxie and making it possible for a team to take part in the 'Ruta de la Sal' race in April.

Gitana Team website